The McStrike should be a lesson to young people to challenge their bosses

Hundreds of employees of your favourite restaurants walked out yesterday, here’s what you can learn from them

Big businesses rarely think of the little guy. But collective action and unions allow low income workers to send clear messages to those at the top. It’s for this reason that the McStrike action yesterday saw employees of your favourite food outlets walk out on strike to protest exploitation in the industry. In areas around London, and across the country, staff from McDonalds, Wetherspoons, Uber Eats, and TGI Fridays came together for a day of action, joined by others who showed up in solidarity.

“It started seconds after midnight when a lot of Wetherspoons workers in Brighton went to welcome their fellow workers who walked off the job to loud cheers,” said Owen Espley, an economic justice campaigner working for the McStrike campaign. “They went to one particular pub where workers came out and marched to other pubs to collect another batch of workers. It was a big carnival atmosphere of determination. There was a McDonalds in Brixton with workers on strike and there about 100 people came out from the community to surround the building in a human chain.”

Tension has been building over the last year as people across the hospitality sector are fighting for a living wage of £10 an hour. In September 2017, we spoke to McDonalds workers who were among the hundreds that challenged poor wages of the billion dollar company that employs around 250,000 people worldwide. However, the movement has gained poignance as recent figures have shown that in the US and the UK the gap between the CEOs and their workers continues to widen. In some companies, CEOs earn around 312 times more than their average employees, meanwhile in one company, Marathon Petroleum, the boss earned a massive 935 times more than most of his staff.

Now, staff at vendors like TGI Fridays have asked that their tips should not be used to bump up poor pay packets, while others argue there should be an end to youth rates, which mean an 18-year-old gets paid less than a 25-year-old for doing the same job. By striking they’ve brought issues including guaranteed hours so they know that they will be able to afford their rent and bills, and the continued campaign for union recognition so they can have a collective voice at work, into the national consciousness.

Alex McIntyre is a 19-year-old working at Wetherspoons who started going to union meetings about three months ago, and got so heavily involved he jokes that it has become “like a full-time job”. Unions and strike action may feel like a relic of a bygone era, but young people who have found themselves in precarious and exploitative situations have given them a much-needed shot in the arm. “Lots of young people like myself probably think of the 70s, probably old people to be honest, when you talk about strikes and unions. You don't really think there's something you can do,” he explained.

“‘You get the cards you're dealt and you get on with it.’ The way the political landscape is right now, everything is affecting us, yet we don't have a voice to change things,” he said. McIntyre reiterated that it’s easy to feel alone, and awkward when returning to work. Even though dealing with managers day-to-day “can be quite scary”, ultimately he feels more powerful and having this new sense of unity in the workforce means that even in fleeting difficult moments, his focus remains on the collective.  

“This is the only way to fight back and get the conditions we deserve. I encourage everyone to join a union because you can’t rely on the generosity of companies and the government.”

Watch footage from the protests below.